We are inclined to think people in the medieval period didn’t live very long compared with this present age. Well, perhaps the very poor died younger, but those from the higher echelons were as likely as us to live on I to very old age. Proof of this can be found in the records of the Scrope/Grosvenor controversy that came before the Court of Chivalry between 1385 and 1390. It was held to settle a dispute between the “….very wealthy Sir Richard le Scrope (of Bolton Abbey, in the Dales of North Yorkshire) and the slightly less rich Sir Robert Grosvenor (who came from near Chester) over the right to bear a particular design of arms – azure, a bend or (blue with a gold diagonal stripe)….”
“….Sir John de Sully was asked to ‘depose’ for Sir Richard le Scrope, which he did at his manor in Iddesleigh (as he was ‘unable to travel because of his great age’) on 2nd July, 1386 before the specially appointed commissioner, John Kentwode. Other very old knights testified for one side or the other (a number were in their eighties and a few in their nineties, but of those called only Sir John de Sully and Sir John Chydioke were centenarians). Sir John’s testimony, or deposition, survives with 355 others in the National Archives….”
So, there were two centenarians, some nonagenarians and a number of octogenarians! And this among men who had lived hard lives as fighting knights, in battles and long journeys. They weren’t soft! Yet they managed to reach these venerable ages. Does this mean they were simply trained to be stronger and last longer? If we trained as they did, would we be living on to 120 as a matter of course?
Sir John (born circa 1281, died 1387/8) couldn’t appear before the Court of Chivalry because of his age, so a special commissioner John Kentwood/Kentwode went to hear his deposition at his manor of Iddlesleigh. One can picture the scene. The old soldier remembering past battles and occasions, stretching right back to the reign of Edward II!
I’d never heard of Sir John Sully, so coming upon him was very interesting. He’s in my copy of a book on the Scrope/Grosvenor affair, of course, and gets a mention in the records of the Order of the Garter. So I looked around to find out more, and learned he’s buried in Crediton Parish Church. He was a Devon man, and it seems there are two tombs and effigies for him, one at Crediton, the other at Iddlesleigh. I don’t know if one contains his remains and the other his heart, or if one is simply a memorial.
You can also read about him here.